Sunday, December 06, 2009

James Aloysius Joyce, OG Turntablist

I'm up to "Nausicaa" now, but a couple months ago while I was reading "Sirens," I realized that all its playful echoes of lines and phrases from the earlier parts of the novel basically amount to sampling.

Take, for instance, the famous opening sentence of "Calypso": "Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls." That's old ha, old high grade ha. In "Sirens," we get that line cut up, reworked, and dropped into a new context: "As said before he ate with relish the inner organs, nutty gizzards, fried cods' roes while Richie Goulding, Collis, Ward ate steak and kidney, steak then kidney, bite by bite of pie he ate Bloom ate they ate." We've gone from Bloom eating breakfast alone in his kitchen to him dining at a restaurant with Richie Goulding after a chance meeting on the street.

Of course, we get a common thread that connects the two episodes: Bloom's correspondence with Martha Clifford. In "Calypso," he's receiving a letter from her; in the latter chapter, he's writing a response. The new context of "Bloom ate with relish" then shows how alienated he's become, as he's gone from domestic comfort to a strained, rather lonely dinner that he spends spying on the action of the scene. The contextual change works both way, though; the mood of "Sirens" is melancholy ("I feel so sad"), and as we learn later, it is during this chapter that Boylan is tipping her tepping her tapping her topping her Molly Bloom; consequently, if we follow the connective thread backward from "Sirens" to that kitchen scene in "Calpyso," we see that Bloom's solitude ("So lonely blooming") is quite profound and acute and existed even back then. The very aroma of the earlier chapter subtly shifts all thanks to DJ Joyce's sampling.

Bloom's relish is not the only the only example, but the first off the top of my head (see also the textual introduction of Mina Kennedy and Lydia Douce, which samples their obfuscated debut in "Wandering Rocks") -- and hell, what is the overture of "Sirens" if not a cut-and-paste, sampled collage? So keeping the musical motif of the chapter in mind, the collagist excursions simply lead me to conclude that Joyce anticipated sampling by 40 years.

Indie rating: DJ Shadow - "Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt"

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